Effective communication is a pillar of business success. That’s never been clearer than now. Millions of managers, employees, business associates and potential customers are under coronavirus lockdown. And they all need to stay in touch.
In this situation, optimizing business communication is vital to keep up productivity. Thankfully, technology today offers a full spectrum of solutions you can take advantage of.
VoIP is one of these solutions.
VoIP technology ditches traditional telephone lines. Instead, it uses the internet for audio and video calls.
Not only does this result in higher quality audio and freedom from the phone lines of yesteryear. VoIP also offers many extra features to maximize your communication efficiency.
Keep reading to learn how VoIP works, and how it can help you supercharge your business communication. Even now, in the time of corona.
What exactly is VoIP?
Voice over Internet Protocol is exactly what it says on the tin: It’s a technology to send audio signals over the internet, rather than through traditional phone lines.
Programs called codecs transform raw voice and video signals into individual digital packages. These packages are sent to the VoIP provider, who forwards them to the final recipient.
VoIP provides much greater flexibility than the traditional PBX (Private Branch Exchange) systems still widely in use among businesses. For one thing, VoIP is not dependent on the quirks of phone line infrastructure, making it a reliable basis for business phone systems. For another, it can be used anywhere – and thus is the number one choice for remote office phone systems.
Even while you are stuck at home in coronavirus lockdown.
Is VoIP better than Skype or Zoom?
At this point, you might well think – hold on. Isn’t that basically what Zoom and Skype do anyways?
Well, you’d be right.
Skype and Zoom, as well as similar services like Google Voice and FaceTime, all use VoIP technology. They, too, use codecs to convert audio and video signals to digital packages and send them across the internet.
These services fall under consumer VoIP.
So, if you’ve been in a Zoom conference with your colleagues while under stay-at-home orders, you have already used VoIP.
But there are serious differences between consumer and business VoIP services.
For one thing, consumer VoIP uses Peer-to-Peer (P2P) connections.
This means that service quality is entirely down to the users’ connections. If they’re unstable, calls quickly degrade or fail altogether.
Business VoIP is miles ahead in reliability. With high-grade connections, VoIP providers typically offer “five-nines” (99.999%) availability. They can guarantee this service level by routing calls through their own network infrastructure, and oversubscribing networks so that calls don’t get dropped.
Besides service quality, there is call quality. Consumer VoIP uses low-rate audio codecs like AAC, SILK, G.729, and Opus. The G.729 codec, for example, has an 8 kbit/s bit rate, which isn’t much.
The industry-standard codec for business VoIP is G.722, often advertised as “wideband” or “HD voice.” With a bit rate of up to 64 kbit/s, it offers a whopping 8 times the data to boost sound quality.
Finally, consumer VoIP is locked into the provider apps: You can only use Zoom in its app and skype within Skype. Business VoIP services, on the other hand, often integrate into other programs to make calls.
Business VoIP also offers many more advanced features.
The bottom line is that yes, consumer VoIP can be used for business communication, but there are limitations.
To really upgrade the speed, quality and flexibility of your business communication, you will want to consider business VoIP services.
So, which advanced VoIP features can supercharge your business communication?
Once you’ve decided to transition to business VoIP in general terms, there is a long list of valuable additional features you can use to narrow down the options, and compare different providers of VoIP services.
Here are the highlights.
1. Multi-Device Support
You can use the same VoIP account on different devices. Whether it’s a VoIP-enabled phone, a wireless VoIP headset, a smartphone app or desktop computer. As long as there’s internet, your VoIP will work.
This also means you can access your VoIP from anywhere. Whether it’s your office or your couch, desk phone or smartphone: High-quality business communication is always available.
2. Dashboard Administration
You can take care of the administration of your business VoIP online. If someone is added to your team, shifted around, or leaves, you can adjust access, numbers and accounts on a web dashboard. No need to wait for the IT department, or for a technician to crawl under your desk to install additional lines.
3. Voicemail-to-Email and Voicemail-to-Text
Business VoIP providers offer voicemail-to-email or voicemail-to-text functions: Voicemail is converted to an audio file and sent to your inbox or your phone. From there, it can easily be added to a to-do list, referenced, or forwarded.
You’re unavailable? Reroute your voice messages for someone else to take care of them in the meantime.
4. Unified Communications
Unified Communications (UC) bundles VoIP with other communication channels like chats, text messaging, email, fax and others.
Centralizing all these channels with one provider means you can say good riddance to dozens of different apps, free up time, and up your productivity.
5. CRM Ready
Business VoIP often integrates with Customer Relations Management software.
This can help make your customer service more efficient, but much more besides: Service staff get highly specific Caller IDs. You get real-time analytics. Customers get an improved experience.
Depending on the VoIP provider, there are integrations with other programs such as project management software. They may connect services you already use: For instance, a number of providers offer combinations with Slack.
This means that users can focus their communication and management on one platform. This reduces app-switching and increases productivity.
At the same time, users keep unified access to a plethora of channels – including high-quality audiovisual communication. And: It doesn’t matter whether they work remotely.
Choosing the right communication channels during the corona crisis is essential.
Whether you are a blogging entrepreneur or an established business owner who suddenly needs to manage remote teams, business VoIP is an option you will want to consider.
What’s more, even business-grade VoIP is fairly quick to set up and requires little extra hardware. Providers also routinely offer trial periods – and now might be the time to take advantage of those.